*Klaxon* Jen's New Body Revelation
This weekend amidst the scalding sun and stunning lobster face I catwalked around ALDI, I sat in my room watching rehearsal footage to prepare for an upcoming performance. In the videos, two performers are reenacting scenes in which I appear as a tester audience member. After I had absorbed the performance choreography, my heart suddenly leapt up in my chest. I paused the video and eyeballed the screen, completely taken aback and honestly a bit turned on. I know what you're thinking- 'Oh Jen, do you fancy one of the performers?' Well yes everyone I do, and the performer I am crushing on in the video is ME!
WHAT ON EARTH!!!
In this video, my body is covered up with fitted grey Primani tracksuit bottoms and a purple sports top. I have my hair tied up in a ponytail. I mean it's definitely not glamorous, I don't have a ball gown or tiara on. Yet my legs, my bum, my tummy, my boobs, my arms, my everything all in that moment look amazing! I feel like I am seeing my body for the first time and I am so freeking happy. Has this positive reflection of myself come out of nowhere? Absolutely not. I have been working for the past five years to develop a much more positive relationship with my body. It's been a bumpy ride and I am no means at an end, but I'd like to give you an insight into some of my past body based life.
When I was a twelve, I felt like a useless brain attached to a big lump of useless flesh that I would reluctantly drag around. I'd seen Trinny and Susannah on their TV show talk about womens bodies being pears and fucking lollipops, so was left traumatised that I couldn't put my body confidently into some food shaped analogy. Then there was clothes shopping with friends; where I wore size 12 and they both wore size 8. I felt so ashamed about the size of this hideous top I was wearing that I cursed myself with horrific slurs I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy and cried in the changing rooms. Afterwards, the only way they could cheer me up was with a mozzarella and pesto pannini in Debenhams cafe. I also remember watching really hot girls in school sitting on other girls laps and messing around (not making out, although that would have been exciting!). I convinced myself that if I ever sat in someone elses lap, that they would break both of their legs. I used to do a 'Pump it Up' exercise video nearly every night at one point at thirteen, to try and lose as much weight as I could. I'd gorge on tins of rice pudding and then hide them in the bathroom cupboard so no one knew. These are only a few select examples but unfortunately there are hundreds more.
I look at pictures of myself at this age-and there aren't many- I see such sadness behind the eyes and it honestly breaks my heart. Because the reality is, my body has helped me through all sorts of bizarre habits; starvation diets, slapping myself in the face, sucking in my stomach, shaving until I bled, epilating until I bruised, rubbing a pomous stone on my nose... (Yes, this is completely true and I will explain it sometime soon if you are interested.) But it has always been there for me, even when I have treated it with disregard, smeared it in body glitter and shoved struddles in its stomach until it can't move. It has always been unique and beautiful.
If I could talk to Jenny aged 12 I would say DAMN GIRL! YOUR BODY IS UNBELIEVABLE! YOUR SOUL IS UNBELIEVABLE! ACTUALLY USE YOUR HIPS! YOU DESERVE THEM! TAKE UP SPACE! MOVE YOUR ARMS! USE YOUR LEGS! DO WHAT YOU WANT! YOU ARE SO WONDERFUL AND I LOVE YOU! It's like seeing a gorgeous friend trying to put themselves out there but they are entangled in anxiety. You want to cheerlead and write their name on your stomach in midgetgems. I feel so proud of myself after seeing this video footage and a bit wet in my pants. Again, sorry for that but the truth is the truth. To be fair, I might have just wet myself.
Something that has impacted thoughts around my body and its purpose is training in Mixed Martial Arts. When I first stepped on the mat and watched others grappling and doing take downs, I never believed I would have the courage or confidence to put myself in difficult physical and mental situations. But here I am, with bruised forearms and disgusting shin pads, getting on with it. During a graduation, I was punched so hard in the face I fell down crying yet scrambled up to continue fighting through the tears and hysteria. This training connected the dots for me between positive mental beliefs and the physical capacity of my body. The human who says they can and the human who says they can't are both right. I can do so much more that I ever thought possible with my body and so can you.
It might be worth thinking about this: Where did you get the thought that you aren't someone who can dance? Do you need to workout out every day to be a validated as a man? Did a P.E. teacher tell you that you were terrible at sports? Who told you having big thighs is a crime? What do you love about your body? When were you told that being a 'natural' beauty was the right way? Who said that fake tanning yourself every week was the gateway to a sexy body? Why do you continue to talk so critically about your body, when it has been there for you throughout your whole life?
We have to start changing our relationship with our beautiful and snowflakely unique bodies. Listen, I don't have a pancake flat stomach but I think my belly is cute now. I have cellulite at the back of my thighs, I have hair in random places, I have eczema scars, my sweat sometimes smells of Dahl and I have German feet which remind me of Frodo Baggins. I stand a bit hunched and my hips are tight so sometimes when I am tired I walk like I am wearing soaking leather pants. But I am here in all of my glory, moving my body more and challenging all the crap that the patriarchy pushed onto me for so long. In doing so, I'm part of the movement smashing up the idea that we have to stay still, pick apart our faults and hate ourselves. Why not try to look in the mirror totally naked and say aloud the bits about yourself that you really like? At first if it repulses you, try with some pants on and start with something like your eyelashes. As time goes on, when you start to reclaim your shape and size then you will start to do something for your body and your mind that is truly radical. You will start to love yourself.